Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shaping the Collapse of the Empire

One of my starting assumptions when thinking about the future is that the collapse of industrial civilization is inevitable. Occasionally, there is a debate among Peak Oil aware circles about whether we are facing a quick collapse or a slow, grinding, long collapse. (There are some who say that Peak Oil does not equal collapse in our present context, but they can be safely ignored.) The question I propose to address here is: if we could choose, what sort of collapse would be most desirable (or, more accurately, least awful)?

There are some who argue that a slow collapse would be better, because it could mitigate some suffering, allow us to prepare for a better social organization post-collapse, etc. The problem I see with this point of view is that is presumes that we will retain a reasonable political order all the way down the collapse curve. However, it seems more likely that we will face political turmoil and potential collapse earlier rather than later in this process. The history of the Great Depression in Europe, and particularly in Germany, is instructive in this regard. What arises may almost certainly be, in some form, a malignant political order that does not respond well to the efforts of individuals who are outside the systems of power to effect positive change.

On the other hand, a quick collapse, while distinctly unpleasant, at least has the virtue of taking out more of the systems of state power before they can be used in bad ways against the populace. It also will probably be better for ecological systems, in that the ruthless exploitation that industrial civilization practices will come to an end sooner than it would in a slow collapse. If we all become poor relatively quickly, there will certainly be violence, injustice, and hardship, but that will be more manageable if most state power has collapsed as well, rather than if we continue to extend and pretend in a way that props up, as much as possible, industrial civilization and state power turns into something diabolical.

Having established that I would prefer a fast collapse to a slow collapse, what, if anything, can individuals ethically do to bring this preferred option about? Here are some of the ideas I have:
  • Shine a spotlight, using all available means, on the nature and abuses of Imperial power, so that ones friends and neighbors understand why it is crucial to withdraw their support. As Wikileaks is proving, daylight is the mortal enemy of Empire.
  • Discharge all indebtedness - preferably by paying it down and not incurring new debt, but default may be acceptable as well. The Empire's economic system relies on indebtedness and interest payments to function. In conjunction with this, find ways to preserve your assets outside the banking (and credit union) system.
  • Withdraw, to the maximum extent possible, from the money economy.
  • Find your life's purpose and meaning in something besides materialism.
I do not advocate for violent resistance to the empire, because by pursuing violence, we would simply turn ourselves into that which we claim to oppose.

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